Former U.S President Barack Obama recently shared his annual summer reading list, which includes 5 classic novels from prolific African writers.
In the Facebook post Obama wrote that the list is in anticipation of his upcoming trip to Africa, during which he will visit Kenya and South Africa. In South Africa he will speak at the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture. The lecture’s theme titled ‘Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World’ will focus on creating conditions for bridging divides, working across ideological lines, and resisting oppression and inequality
The recommended reading list includes seminal works by Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Hisham Matar, and Nelson Mandela.
Explaining the selection, Obama wrote: “Over the years since, I’ve often drawn inspiration from Africa’s extraordinary literary tradition. As I prepare for this trip, I wanted to share a list of books that I’d recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa’s best writers and thinkers – each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways”.
The six books interrogates various themes, and pertinent issues that continue to define the continent, which include the impact of colonialism on African cultures, traditional values and belief systems.
In his Facebook post Obama also explained his imminent visit to his family’s ancestral home Kenya. “Kenya, of course, is the Obama ancestral home. I visited for the first time when I was in my twenties and I was profoundly influenced by my experiences – a journey I wrote about in my first book, Dreams from My Father”.
Here Obama’s recommended reading list
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A true classic of world literature, this novel paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism. A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.
A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
A chronicle of the events leading up to Kenya’s independence, and a compelling story of how the transformative events of history weigh on individual lives and relationships.
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the 20th century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.
The Return by Hisham Matar
A beautifully-written memoir that skillfully balances a graceful guide through Libya’s recent history with the author’s dogged quest to find his father who disappeared in Gaddafi’s prisons.
The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes
It’s true, Ben does not have African blood running through his veins. But few others so closely see the world through my eyes like he can. Ben’s one of the few who’ve been with me since that first presidential campaign. His memoir is one of the smartest reflections I’ve seen as to how we approached foreign policy, and one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen about what it’s actually like to serve the American people for eight years in the White House.